Chorus: City Rail Link blunders caused CBD fibre outages; proper fix still a week away

Chorus blames a series of broadband outages in the Auckland CBD on a blundering contractor for the city’s $4.4 billion City Rail Link build – and says a proper fix is still a week away.

“The [15-hour] outage on March 19 was caused by CRL contractors, who were working on the new Aotea station, damaging a 312-fibre cable,” a Chorus spokesperson told the Herald.

“Chorus relocated the cable out of the way of the works and put in place a temporary overlay to restore services. Subsequently, the cable with the temporary overlay was moved and again damaged.”

The temporary overlay being moved caused fresh problems from 4pm on Monday, which continued into Tuesday for some customers.

Late Wednesday, the Chorus spokeswoman updated that, “Chorus is working with the CRL contractors to get access to the site in order to re-route the cable away from the works.

This is planned for tonight [overnight Wednesday/Thursday]. We anticipate the fibres being cut over to the new cable across two nights, planned for April 19 and 20. “

In the meantime, Chorus will put in place measures to protect the existing cable with its overlay repair, the spokeswoman said.

Chorus runs the UFB fibre network used by retail internet service providers including Spark, Vodafone, Vocus (Orcon, Slingshot), 2degrees and Trustpower. In many places, Chorus fibre is the only option. However, the Auckland CBD has a number of networks. Vodafone, for example, said it uses a lot of its fibre in the area, allowing it to skirt Chorus’s issues. Many ISPs have been able to organise fall-back routes.

On April 13, Spark said six of its customers were still affected. The chief information of the organisations said while his company was able to get a backup service working in around 40 minutes, recurring, open-ended nature of the problems was frustrating.

“What’s concerning is that this is a repeat of the same issue we and thousands of other customers experienced on March 19. That outage lasted for 15 hours for some businesses,” he said.

Chorus would not name the contractor. CRL has been asked for comment.

Earlier, an Auckland Transport insider told the Herald that approximately half the cost of the $4.4b City Rail Link is moving existing infrastructure out of the way – which includes fibre optic cable.

Aotea Station is being built beside the Bledisloe Building at the Albert St/Mayoral Dr/Wellesley St West/Wellesley St East intersection.

The station will be 15m deep and 300m long and be the busiest train station in New Zealand, once operational.

It will connect with tunnels to Britomart and another new station, Karangahape, and then link to a rebuilt Mt Eden station and Auckland’s wide rail network.

Aotea Station will be topped by a $452m, 21-level office, apartment and retail building – but construction on that project will not begin until after the CRL completes in 2024.

History of violations

The Aotea Station snafus are the latest in a series of fibre cuts.

In November last year, thousands of South Aucklanders lost power – some for up to three days – after contractors drilling under a bus lane in Mangere town centre sliced through some Chorus fibre.

In June last year, Vodafone warned contractors to be more careful after roadworkers cut a cable near Matamata – and around the same time contractors removing trees near Napier also sliced through some fibre. The twin blunders meant thousands throughout the central North Island lost internet.

And the following month, Chorus finally fixed a bodged job – also in Mangere – that had seen bare fibre cables dangling over open footpath for months.

Although fibre – malleable and mostly laid underground – has proved resilient to natural disasters including the Christchurch quakes, the November 14, 2016 7.8 Kaikoura quake caused six breaks in the a major fibre optic cable that runs from the top of the South Island, along State Highway 1 through Clarence and Kaikoura, to Christchurch. Workarounds were put in place within 48 hours, and capacity on Vodafone’s Aqualink cable (which links the North and South Island and runs off the coast of Kaikoura was increased), but it took until February 22, 2017 to complete a combined Spark-Vodafone-Chorus effort to repair the damaged fibre.

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